Guns, Cronies, and Crops: How Military, Political and Business Cronies Conspired to Grab Land in Myanmar

TitleGuns, Cronies, and Crops: How Military, Political and Business Cronies Conspired to Grab Land in Myanmar
Annotated RecordNot Annotated
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsGlobal_Witness _
Key themesAccessToJustice, Dispossession-grabbing, FDI, MarginalisedPeople

As Myanmar’s junta prepared to step down from government, the military set about seizing public assets and natural resources to ensure its economic control in a new era of democratic rule. Guns, Cronies and Crops details the collusion at the heart of operations carried out by Myanmar’s armed forces in northeastern Shan State. Large swathes of land were taken from farming communities in the mid-2000s and handed to companies and political associates to develop rubber plantations. Our investigation reveals those involved, including Myanmar’s current Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, U Myint Hlaing, the country’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, and Sein Wut Hmon, a rubber company which collaborated with the former military junta to gain control of land. These revelations come as Myanmar’s government finalises the drafting of a national land policy, the country’s first. The report documents the toxic legacy of these land grabs on an already marginalised ethnic-minority population, for whom little has changed since the country’s much-lauded transition to civil democracy in 2011. Villagers told Global Witness that they had received no compensation and are struggling to earn a living and feed their families without land to grow food. By 2013, 5.3 million acres of land - 35 times the size of Myanmar’s capital Yangon - had been leased to investors for agriculture. More than a quarter of this total is now covered by rubber plantations. As Myanmar’s land is put up for sale after decades of trade sanctions, Global Witness is warning that foreign money risks fuelling human rights violations and playing into the hands of the former dictatorship. The country’s new land policy and subsequent land law present a major opportunity to secure a more equitable future for the country’s citizens, and put an end to the land grabs that are blighting the country’s reform effort.


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